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Breast Augmentation

(Augmentation Mammoplasty)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition | Reasons for Procedure | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor


Breast augmentation is a surgery to increase the size or change the shape of your breasts.

Reasons for Procedure

  • Cosmetic reasons—to increase breast size, make breasts symmetric, or improve breast shape and/or contour
  • Reconstructive reasons—to increase the size of breasts that have been injured or after surgery, such as following a mastectomy for breast cancer

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a breast augmentation, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Abnormal scarring
  • Painful and/or restricted arm and shoulder motion
  • Uneven appearance of breasts, either due to position or size
  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • Implant hardens, ruptures, leaks, or deflates
  • Implant may make cancer detection with mammogram and/or self-exam more difficult
  • Decreased sensation
  • The need to have more surgeries, including having the implants removed

Smoking may increase the risk of complications.

This is an elective surgery. If you have any illnesses or you are in poor health, you should not have this procedure.

Silicone-filled breast implants are not designed to last a lifetime. They typically need to be removed within 10 years. Your risk for complications increases the longer you have the implants.

What to Expect

You may be asked to provide a picture of a woman whose breasts you want yours to resemble. You also may be asked to look through an album of breast sizes and shapes to help the doctor understand the outcome you desire. Computer imaging may also be used to help determine desired results.

Your doctor may do the following:

Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen
  • Blood thinners
  • Anti-platelet medications

Leading up to your procedure:

  • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • You may be asked to shower the morning of your procedure. You may be given special antibacterial soap to use.
  • Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
  • Arrange for help at home after returning from the hospital.

Local anesthesia may be used, but general anesthesia is usually used. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep. With local anesthesia, the selected area will be numb.

A cut in the skin will be made either underneath your breast, alongside the area around the nipple, in your underarm, or in your belly button. An implant or prosthesis will be placed through the incision. The implant can contain silicone gel or can be filled with salt water after it is placed. It may be placed between the skin/breast tissue and the muscle, underneath the connective tissue of the muscle, or under the muscle itself. You may or may not have a drainage tube placed around the implant. The incision will be closed with stitches and bandaged. The same procedure may be repeated for the other breast.

Side View of Breast Implantation

breast implant
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

About 1-2 hours

Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. You may have some bruising and tenderness of the breasts for several weeks after surgery. Talk to your doctor about medication to help manage the pain.

This procedure may be done in the hospital or surgery center. It may be possible to leave the hospital or surgery center on the same day of the procedure, or you may be asked to stay overnight in the hospital. Talk to your doctor about your options.

  • You will wear a special bra or bandage to put pressure on the breasts. This will help to support your breasts and decrease the chance of bleeding.
  • You may want to apply ice packs to your breasts to decrease swelling and pain. Wrap ice in a towel; do not apply ice directly to your skin.
  • You may be given a prescription for pain medication or be advised to take an over-the-counter pain medication.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions regarding physical activity.
  • Your doctor may advise you to massage or move your implants.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

Be sure that you follow-up with your doctor. For silicone gel implants, you will need routine MRI screenings to check for tears or holes in the implant. The screenings are typically done three years after surgery and every two years after that.

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the incision site
  • Discoloration in either breast
  • Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medications you were given after surgery, or which last for more than two days after discharge from the hospital
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
  • Implants grow hard, or you believe that they are leaking
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
  • Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash, or other new symptoms

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Society of Plastic Surgeons


Breast Implant Information



Canadian Society of Plastic Surgery


Women's Health Matters



Breast augmentation. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery website. Available at: http://surgery.org/public/procedures-breastaug.php. Accessed August 29, 2013.

Silicone gel-filled breast implants: updated safety information. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm260235.htm. Published June 22, 2011. Accessed August 29, 2013.

6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.

7/1/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: FDA provides updated safety data on silicone gel-filled breast implants. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm260235.htm. Published June 22, 2011. Accessed July 1, 2011.

Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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